The love for reading can make lovers of the written word go to extreme lengths for books. For Kerala resident P Sukumaran, this perhaps holds true the most, albeit with a selfless motive behind it. Every morning six days a week, he fills up two bags with books and walks almost 12 km to deliver them to people in areas of Karuvatta and Kumarapuram grama panchayats in Alappuzha.
Sukumaran works at the Kumarapuram Public Library at Karuvatta South, which is under the Kerala State Library Council. He joined in 1979 and very soon took on the mantle of a ‘walking librarian’ so that he could inspire people to read. In the past four decades, his devotion towards helping others acquire the habit of reading has been exemplary.
Speaking about his past, Sukumaran told The Hindu how he used to walk several kilometres as a newsboy as a teenager. “When I took up the job as a librarian, not many were visiting the library or borrowing books. It was when I decided to reach out to readers with reading materials."
Sukumaran also said that a lot of people, including many women and children have also taken up the habit of reading books he supplies. Sukumaran, who is a resident of Karuvatta does not know how to ride a bicycle and thus prefers to walk to almost 30 houses on a daily basis to deliver the books. He delivers almost 1,000 books on foot every month.
“Some of them, especially children, give me reviews of books," Sukumaran said.
Sukumaran, who lives with his wife and a 12-year-old autistic child, lives on an allowance of Rs 3,100 from the Library Council and a 30% commission that he gets from the book sales. But he says he is proud of his livelihood as a librarian.
A similar inspiration has been Radhamani KP, who lugs around some over 30 books, going around her village to houses distributing library books to women of the houses, even on Sundays. The coronavirus pandemic was not able to do much to dither her work, as even during the early days of the pandemic, people who had grown used to getting books from her, landed at her house to borrow books to read during the lockdown. The library has 102 members and a staggering 94 of them are women.